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Kuniskas v. Walsh

April 1, 2010

ANDREW KUNISKAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH WALSH; GEORGE SKUMANICK; DEMETRIUS FANNICK; JOHN DOE 1; JOHN DOE 2; AND JOHN DOE 3, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before this Court is Plaintiff Andrew Kuniskas's Motion to File an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 38.) Because some of Plaintiff's proposed amendments would not be futile, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part. This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("federal question jurisdiction"), and over Plaintiff's state law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 ("supplemental jurisdiction").

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows: The Plaintiff in this action is Andrew Kuniskas ("Plaintiff"). (Amend. Compl.¶ 1, Doc. 38, Ex. 2.) Defendant Joseph Walsh ("Walsh") was at all relevant times a Corporal with the Pennsylvania State Police. (Amend. Compl.¶ 2.) Defendant George Skumanick ("Skumanick") was at all relevant times the District Attorney for Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. (Amend. Compl.¶ 3.) Skumanick was the lead prosecutor in the relevant criminal case against Plaintiff. (Amend. Compl.¶ 18.) Defendant Demetrius Fannick ("Fannick") was at all relevant times a criminal defense attorney representing Plaintiff in the relevant criminal proceedings. (Amend. Compl.¶ 4.) Defendant Jamie Anzalone ("Anzalone") was at all relevant times an attorney retained by Plaintiff to represent him in a civil case arising out of these events. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 5.) Defendant Tom Kerrigan ("Kerrigan") was at all relevant times a paralegal or investigator for Anzalone. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 6.) The unnamed "John Doe" defendants served either as officers of the Pennsylvania State Police or as employees of Wyoming County during the time period relevant to this case. (Amend. Compl.¶¶ 7-8.) Defendant County of Wyoming is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 9.)

On or around May 21, 2006, Plaintiff was operating his four wheel all-terrain vehicle on the roads of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Amend. Compl.¶ 13.) Defendant Walsh, operating a Pennsylvania State Police patrol car, pursued Plaintiff for suspected traffic violations. (Amend. Compl.¶ 13.) During that pursuit, Plaintiff was "run over" by Walsh, sustaining personal injuries as a result. (Amend. Compl.¶¶ 13-14.) A video recorder installed in Walsh's vehicle recorded the entire pursuit. (Amend. Compl.¶ 17.) The video tape was turned over to prosecutors. (Amend. Compl.¶ 17.) Plaintiff was charged with a "bevy of offenses" as a result of this incident. (Amend. Compl.¶ 18.) Plaintiff pled guilty to some of the charges against him. (Amend. Compl.¶ 25.) Plaintiff served a term of imprisonment for these offenses, and has since been released. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 32.)

The video recording "would have conclusively shown that Defendant Walsh had committed an illegal pit maneuver and had effectively committed a criminal assault on Plaintiff." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff repeatedly requested Fannick to secure the video recording, but was told that no recordings existed. (Amend. Compl.¶ 24.) Defendants Anzalone and Kerrigan should have been aware that the videotape was available and could have been secured. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 23.) The video tape was destroyed within days after Plaintiff was sentenced. (Amend. Compl.¶ 26.) The John Doe Defendants and Skumanick were also involved in the concealment and destruction of the videotape. (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 29.) All Defendants were aware of Plaintiff's intention to seek civil remedies as a result of this incident. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 16.) The Defendants conspired to conceal the existence of the video tape of the May 21, 2006, incident in order to defeat Plaintiff's civil and criminal cases. (Amend. Compl.¶ 23.)

On January 20, 2009, Plaintiff filed the present action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.) On January 19, 2010, this Court granted the Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. 37.) Plaintiff filed the present Motion to File an Amended Complaint on February 9, 2010. (Doc. 38.) Defendants Skumanick and Fannick have filed briefs in opposition (Docs. 39, 41) and this motion is now ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Motion to Amend Pleadings

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), "a party may amend the party's pleadings . . . by leave of court . . . and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a). It is within the sound discretion of the trial court to determine whether a party shall have leave to amend pleadings out of time. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Heyl & Patterson Int'l, Inc. v. F.D. Rich Housing, 663 F.2d 419, 425 (3d Cir. 1981). However, "[i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason -- such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of the allowance of the amendment, futility of the amendment, etc. -- the leave sought should, as the rules require, be 'freely given.'" Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.

In the Third Circuit, the touchstone for the denial of leave to amend is undue prejudice to the non-moving party. Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1413-14 (3d Cir. 1993); Cornell & Co., Inc. v. OSHRC, 573 F.2d 820, 823 (1978). "In the absence of substantial or undue prejudice, denial instead must be based on bad faith or dilatory motives, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failures to cure the deficiency by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment." Lorenz, 1 F.3d at 1414 (citing Heyl, 663 F.2d at 425).

The only pertinent issue here is whether Plaintiff's proposed amendments to their Complaint are "futile." An amendment is futile if "the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Glassman v. Computervision Corp., 90 F.3d 617, 623 (1st Cir. 1996)). In making this assessment, the Court must use the same standard of legal sufficiency employed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id. In other words, "[a]mendment of the complaint is futile if the amendment will not cure the deficiency in the ...


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